I would like to know if it is permissible to play chess without any gambling and whether it is advisable to read Harry Potter literature, and if not, why.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
- All the Fuqaha(Jurists) and scholars of Islam are unanimous on the fact that if gambling is involved in chess, it is categorically prohibited as it will fall under the ambit of the verse:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنْصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“Oh you who believe, verily intoxicants, gambling (sacrificing on) stone alters (to other than Allah), and drawing arrows are defilement from the works of Shaytan. So avoid them so that you may be successful.”
The same ruling applies to a person who, due to his playing, becomes negligent of his Salah or any other ordainments of Shariah. If a person plays it without any of the aforementioned, it will be prohibitively disliked (makruhtahrimi). 
- Islam emphasizes to preserve and conserve one’s Iman. A Muslim’s Iman is his most important asset andshould be unwavering, steadfast and resolute. Anything that may compromise one’s Iman should be avoided.
Reading fiction/ fantasy is in itself not impermissible. However, it is an undeniable and incontrovertible fact that everything a person reads affects a person psychologically and at times even physically. Books and literature have the power to bring out all sorts of emotions and reactions in people; laughter, frowning, shrieking out, worrying, rejoicing, mourning and an array of emotions. Some books are so powerful that they leave an impression in a person’s life; the way one talks, acts and conducts oneself with other people. Reading takes people away from reality. It places a person in the middle of a situation so vivid that the person doesn’t even know what is going on in the real world. They capture a person’s imagination and heart through a combination of captivating and engrossing plots and characters; so much so that the characters take up their own place in one’s head.
A well-written book has the ability to affect ones moral code; it can blur the lines between what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, acceptable and outright unethical. If a person feels that a book is impacting him in a negative way; affecting ones Iman or psychologically; the person should immediately stop reading the book.
Harry Potter is a series that has its basis deep rooted in magic; something that is expressly prohibited to learn and practice in Shariah. It should be kept in mind that in Islam, there is no differentiation or separation in magic; no ‘good magic’ in contrast to ‘dark arts’. All magic is prohibited. If a person upon reading this series; or any other series; starts to revere, admire and become in awe of magic, he should stop as this is in conflict with a Muslim’s beliefs.
One may read such books to increase ones linguistic skills on condition the reading does not affect ones Imani (religious) values and thinking. If ones Imani values and thinking will be wrongly influenced, then it is prohibited to read such books.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.